Featured Topic: Language Learning

Sarah Krivan 


As the end of the year approaches, many of us will look back on what we’ve achieved over the past twelve months and think about the goals we’ll set for the coming year. If you’re considering how to expand your mind, one common goal is learning a new language or improving on existing fluency levels. With around 7,000 languages* to choose from, the options are plentiful! What puts us in the best position for getting to grips with a new language? SBP authors have insights to offer on this topic:

Osman Engin (2009) examined the importance of motivation types in learning a second language, focusing in particular on integrative motivation, in which learners invest personal effort with the aim of communicating with native speakers of the target language, and instrumentation motivation, whereby for more pragmatic purposes, students learn the language primarily to receive high marks in a course. The learning results of students with integrative motivation were more positive than those of students who had an instrumentation motive. Further, people using integrative motivation reported creating personal criteria for achieving their language learning goals, a phenomenon that was not observed among those with instrumentation motivation.

Chen and Hung (2012) reported on whether personality type and learning strategies influenced the ease with which Taiwanese college students learn English. They found that most students had a visual/nonverbal learning style, regardless of whether their personality type was introverted or extroverted. One recommendation these authors made was to enhance the use of memory and cognitive strategies, which was a particular area of weakness for their participants. Kayaoglu (2013) also examined the link between extroversion and introversion and language-learning strategies, but their findings diverged from those of Chen and Hung. Specifically, introverted learners in Turkey used a greater range of metacognitive and cognitive strategies, whereas extroverted learners tended to rely on communicative strategies.

Once a baseline level of fluency has been established and you want to improve from there, what are your best strategies for success? Mirici (2010) focused on the influence of two different methods of prestudy on the foreign language learning attitude of upper-intermediate English learners. They found that students who were assigned a handout comprising reading activities related to the topic were significantly more motivated, active, and interactive than students who were given a dictionary focusing on the words used in the target unit. Further, the handout materials group reported a better learning attitude than the dictionary group did.

From these studies, it can be seen that motive matters, cultural background may play a part in students’ approach to language learning, and the materials used in lessons influence learning success and attitude.

Will you take on the challenge of learning a new language in 2023? Our journal archive contains dozens of articles on this topic and related fields over our five decades of publication. Sign up for a personal subscription to SBP to gain access to over 3,900 papers spanning the fields of social, behavioral, and developmental psychology.

*Anderson, S. R. (n.d.). How many languages are there in the world? Linguistics Society of America.


Second language learning success and motivation – Ali Osman Engin, 2009, 37(8), 1035–1042.

Personality type, perceptual style preferences, and strategies for learning English as a foreign language – Mei-Ling Chen and Li-Mei Hung, 2012, 40(9), 1501–1510.

Impact of extroversion and introversion on language-learning behaviors – M. Naci Kayaoglu, 2013, 41(5), 819–826.

Influence of prestudy on foreign language learning attitude – Ismail Hakki Mirici, 2010, 38(2), 187–196.